By John Franko
PITTSBURGH (CNS) – The new evangelization is not a new Gospel, but refocuses the faithful on the good news of Jesus and involves the renewal of faith and the willingness to share it, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington told the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA).
“We bring a fuller vision,” Cardinal Wuerl said of the Catholic faith during his keynote address at NCEA’s annual convention. “We need to admit that and be proud of it.”
Hosted by the Diocese of Pittsburgh in partnership with the NCEA, Catholic Library Association and the National Association of Parish and Catechetical Directors, the convention drew about 6,000 participants during its April 22-24 run at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, including four representatives from the Diocese of Jackson.
Karla Luke, operations and support services coordinator for the Office of Education in the diocese, said the conference was a wonderful opportunity.
“The sessions I attended included Joy in the Vocation of the Educator, which focused on the demands of teaching and how to bring joy to our vocations by contemplating Christ,” she said. “I also attended two sessions on Advancing the National Standards for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools. There was robust discussion among school administrators, teachers and diocesan administrators using self-assessment as a means to school improvement and strategic planning,” Luke added.
As a bonus, the conference introduced a smartphone app allowing attendees to bring resources and some presentations to their home dioceses.
Cardinal Wuerl, a native son and former bishop of Pittsburgh, presented his remarks in light of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” (“Evangelii Gaudium”) and the pontiff’s call for a new evangelization within the church and around the world. In the exhortation, the cardinal noted, the pope invites people to focus on the blessing that is the love of God in their lives.
“His energy is a bright ray breaking through the secular darkness,” Cardinal Wuerl added. While the church is the home of the new evangelization, he said, Catholic education is an instrument of it.
The cardinal explained that it can involve “ordinary” areas of evangelization, something as simple as teaching a child the sign of the cross and that it can focus on outreach to those who have fallen away from the church.
“The church brings to our world today an invitation to faith, an encounter with the Lord Jesus and a whole way of living,” he said.
But the secular world is often overwhelming, Cardinal Wuerl noted, and many markers of the faith have been taken away. He expressed concern that secularism has also diminished appreciation of the faith.
Passing on the faith highlights the importance of Catholic schools and religious education programs, he said, explaining that if the new evangelization is to be successful, children must be firmly grounded in an authentic faith. Only then will children be able to live their faith and daily existence with Christ, he added.
Expressing his belief that Catholic education must present a real vision of what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God, Cardinal Wuerl said the authentic proclamation of Christ begins with a clear declaration of who God is. The faithful, he noted, must understand how essential the church is in their lives. The work of building the kingdom as just the beginning, he said.
Cardinal Wuerl said that evangelization involves the work of disciples who share the good news. It involves a bold new courage, a connectedness to the church and a sense of urgency that reminds people it is their time to pass on the message of Jesus.
“Our message should be one that inspires people to follow us,” he said.
(Franko is a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Catholic Review, newspaper of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.)Maureen Smith contributed to this article)